Boy Scouts of America Clearcut Forests, Leave No Trace

Chopping with an Ax

“Leave No Trace” has always been an honored credo of the Boy Scouts of America. The trumpeted tenet is supposed to refer to ethical guidelines which preach having a minimal impact on land, nature and wildlife. But according to a recent investigation, the Boy Scouts have been caught logging over 34,000 acres of pristine forest over the last 20 years, including 60 clearcuts and 35 salvage harvests. They’ve literally left no trace– of the forests.

Furthermore, the survey showed that most of the acreage was logged to turn a backdoor profit, and there’s evidence of corruption. A number of Scout councils submitted inaccurate and misleading logging plans, and allegedly disregarded rules and regulations which were in place to protect wildlife and the watershed. Some of the deals even involve cozy relationships with private companies and state regulators.


Adding to the shady dealings, many Scout executives used the profits for high salaries and unjustified pay raises, despite the fact that overall funding has decreased for the organization over the last several decades. Even at local and regional levels, Scout executives can rake in between $100,000 to $300,000 annually.

In one case from Southwest Washington, 12 acres of 80-year-old Douglas Firs were clearcut despite state logging regulations which were instituted to protect endangered salmon. Although the violations can bring heavy fines, Forestry Department enforcement is often rare. Some of the logs from that cut were turned into a $20,000 new roof for an old lodge; now it’s a grim reminder of the evergreens which once towered over it.

In another case, the Scouts bent rules to salvage timber along the Illinois River watershed in Oregon, which was declared one of the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1984. The practice of salvage harvesting might better be called savage harvesting due to its highly destructive impact on the forest ecosystem.

Despite the evidence against them, national Scout spokesmen have disavowed the reports, citing that the Scouts have always stood for good stewardship. But one Spokane-based council executive was quoted excusing the accusations, saying “…our mission is kids, not trees.”

So far, there’s no news yet that any Forestry Merit Badges have been rescinded due to the allegations.

Image Credit: Big Red Robot on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

10 thoughts on “Boy Scouts of America Clearcut Forests, Leave No Trace”

    1. i know this is a super old article but what the heck. Anybody have the numbers in the last 20 years how many trees the bsa has planted? nesting boxes built? watersheds cleaned? trails repaired? number of boys who gained an appreciation for the environment as a direct result of their scouting experience? just wondering.

  1. GREAT* FUNNY* AND SO TRUE* ARTICLE! THANKS! Look at the BSA executives and FRIENDS OF EXECUTIVE BOY SCOUTS quickly commenting to aid thier boss adding more propaganda and more lies to confuse the public. HEY Denise: “I’ve been to several Scout Camps and have seen no mismanagement as reported in the article. So I analyzed the numbers in the article.[**WHICH** OF THE 10 + ARTICLES REPORTED?? – How can you decide to ‘analyze the numbers, when not all are there? oh, create your OWN stats? Guess What!? I’ve been to two boy scout camps, BOTH ARE MISMANAGED HORRIBLY, THEY HAVE BEEN LOGGED TODEATH, NO MAINTENANCE ON ROADS of headwaters of endangered salmon and trout. BSA just plowed over to get to the trees.. its a travesty. MIKE: “I am dubious of the motives (yes, motives) in the Hearst report.” its called REPORTING, go back a little further, did you ask yourself what would MOTIVATE BSA Nationally installed “Scout Executives” at councils across the country to seek specifically: foresters for Timber Harvests? hmmmm wonder why they didn’t engage Naturalists or perhaps Arborists? how bout a landscaper? OH, i see they didn’t want to spend any money for maintenance… no, BSA executives wanted to STEAL CANDY FROM A BABY, basically, and made a TONS OF MONEY = m o t i v e !? ALSO, yes, read the report, especially when he says “the local board votes on who will be SCOUT EXECUTIVe” Not Credible: the national counsel announced the National Cub Scout Director would become the new Scout Executive at Mt. Diablo! no vote there. What basis do you have that interestingly points out what you desire to hide! why do you pick this up out of all the information: “declines in inicome due to national’s stance on homosexuality!” That is the truth — since LDS Mormons took over the National Council, they’ve impregnated their V A L U E S into boy scouting, unfortunately, unintended need for more money, at the expense of boy scout camp assets, while no scout even earned a FORESTRY BADGE! the finest hipocrasy has arrived – what a story!

  2. Knowledge is power and also a cost saving tool for the future. Read my sig for more info on getting faster more efficient and targetted search results with one simple step.

  3. While I fully support responsible forestry management, I am dubious of the motives (yes, motives) in the Hearst report. The statement released by the Boy Scouts in response said as much: .

    Reading the report left me with the uneasy sense of an intentional presentation of the “facts” written in a tone that is neither unbiased nor even-handed. The kind of “reporting” that has an agenda.

    What basis do these reporters have in speculating that the motive of the Scout councils is to offset declines in income due to national’s stance on homosexuality? I would rather they write an editorial that more clearly presents their social agenda than call it journalism.

  4. John Clark Hooser

    This response does not cover your whole article. This is only a small response to the article.

    I feel it is true that your article sounds a little biased. However, I am guessing that is because you might not have been a scout before.

    It IS nice that you have brought this issue up. I can agree with the ‘corruption’ that apparently ends up in some councils. Mine does not have very much of that at all.

    Scouting is supposed to be a learning experience where youth (and also unlearned adults) are taught to leave no trace; which should include the saving of forrest(s).
    That’s pretty much all I can think of at this moment….

    –John Clark Hooser

  5. Thanks for your comment, Denise. And thanks for reminding readers what I didn’t explicitly mention in the article. Which is: these allegations don’t pertain to Boy Scout camps everywhere. Most of them are not engaged in these practices, and certainly most of them hold true to their conservationist creed.

    That said, I don’t think that your reply completely responds to the allegations that are being made.

    The article does note that these are numbers from the last 20 years. The fact that only 7% of the land has been logged is a moot point considering the amount of acreage involved. Philmont Scout Ranch is a large ranch, but that shouldn’t be made to hide the size of the logged region.

    Furthermore, you’ve said nothing to address the larger issue of clearcutting and salvage harvesting which some of the scout troops in question have done– extremely destructive forms of logging for which there is no excuse. On top of that, bending laws and protections in place to protect our watershed and wildlife like the salmon is inexcusable. The submission of misleading logging plans is downright fraudulent. And for the money to go to pay raises and salaries despite the fact that the Scouts have shrinking funds overall?

    Only 12 acres of 80-year-old Douglas Firs were cut in Southwest Washington, despite protections placed on the land. It doesn’t excuse the practice to say that it was “merely” 12 acres. Those are tall-standing evergreens that were cut merely for the substantial profit that the old wood could bring.

    Indeed, the Scouts should be honored where they do engage in sustainable forestry– and most of the time, they do– but if you’re a fan of the Scouts, then I think you can join me in calling out these abusive practices.

    Lastly, what motive do you feel the Hearst newspapers would have in making ‘sensational and biased reports’?

  6. I find it unfortunate that you have passed along the biased information presented by the Hurst newspapers without investigating the facts. I read the same article but something didn’t ring true for me. I’ve been to several Scout Camps and have seen no mismanagement as reported in the article. So I analyzed the numbers in the article. As I mentioned in my article on the subject:

    However, please note that these numbers are since 1990. That means that Philmont Scout Ranch has logged an average of about 560 acres a year. Philmont consists of 137,493 acres so that is approximately 0.4% of their land. Even if they logged all 10,092 acres at one time that would be only 7% of their land. I’m sure that Scouts can find some pristine and unlogged parts of land on which they can conduct their backcountry hikes and trips on the remaining 93% or 127,000+ acres of land.

    I understand that the goal of your website is to save the planet and that is a commendable and laudable goal. However, you do your readers no favors when you pass along only sensational and biased reports.

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